MMFF 2016 Review: Kabisera

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Arturo “Boy” San Agustin and Real Florido are brave for tackling extrajudicial killings at a time when the issue is still fresh, and that makes Kabisera an important watch.

In this Metro Manila Film Festival entry inspired by a true story, we are introduced to Tunying de Dios (Ricky Davao) and his wife Mercy (Nora Aunor), along with their kids, played by Jason Abalos, JC de Vera, RJ Agustin, Ronwaldo Martin, and Alex San Agustin. Tunying is a barangay official who seems to be participating in shady moneymaking activities, until he assures Mercy that he is only involved in legal gambling to help the needy in the area.

One night, a group of policemen raid their home and kill Tunying, accusing him and his son Andy (de Vera) as the prime suspects in a deadly bank robbery. As the new head of the family (kabisera means head of the table), Mercy fights an uphill battle to prove their innocence. But one thing isn’t clear: their innocence.

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Kabisera is a story we’ve heard countless times these past few months: people getting accused of vague things and being shot dead. What makes this film unique is that it shows the aftermath of such a case. While most wives and children quietly accept fate, there are women like Mercy who fight back, even if they have to fight the law.

The story is compelling since it presents the other side of the news reports and the viral articles, the ones we don’t hear. What happens after someone is gunned down? What are the consequences for the family? What happens if they decide to press charges? Kabisera raises a lot of questions, but the one that matters most is: do suspects deserve human rights?

Nora Aunor shines as Mercy. She has not lost her ability to act with her eyes, ably showing love, fear, anger, and despair without having to say a word. She skillfully portrays different emotions with such visual clarity you would think it was part of the set or the wardrobe. Ricky Davao’s role doesn’t require as much versatility, but his portrayal as the affable de Dios patriarch is commendable. I was also impressed with de Vera, who showed depth as the wayward son and crime suspect.

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Despite the timely story and the remarkable acting, there were a few issues with the film. The pacing, especially in the first part, is slow. The sound effects tend to be overdramatic and overshadow the scenes. I also wondered why the de Dios family was a large household. De Vera, Abalos, and RJ Agustin had substantial roles, but Martin and Alex San Agustin didn’t offer much. A shame, considering I liked Martin’s performance in the critically-acclaimed Pamilya Ordinaryo. But these are small glitches that are forgivable when you look at the bigger picture.

Strangely, Kabisera was submitted to be part of last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. It didn’t make it, and for good reason. Now is the time to watch this. We need to watch this.

Kabisera is one of the eight entries of the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival. The other seven films are Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2, Die Beautiful, Oro, Saving Sally, Seklusyon, Sunday Beauty Queen, and Vince & Kath & James. All films are screened in all cinemas nationwide, and will be screened until January 7, 2017.


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